Saving the children: War closes in on eastern Ukrainian town

May 25, 2022, 12:39 AM | Updated: 1:11 am
Local residents stand next to a school destroyed in a Russian bombing in Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, ...

Local residents stand next to a school destroyed in a Russian bombing in Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. The town of Bakhmut has been coming under increasing artillery strikes, particularly over the last week, as Russian forces try to press forward to encircle the city of Sieverodonetsk to the northeast. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

(AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

BAKHMUT, Ukraine (AP) — Chunks of thick, twisted metal and wood splinters lie among the swings and slides in the playground outside a bombed-out school. Some streets away, a yellow bathtub dangles over the void left when part of an apartment building collapsed in a bombing.

The eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut has been coming under increasing bombardment in Russia’s war, particularly over the last week, local officials and residents say, as Russian forces try to press forward in an effort to encircle and capture the key city of Sieverodonetsk to the northeast.

Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the Donbas for eight years and hold large swaths of territory. Sieverodonetsk and neighboring cities are the only part of the Donbas’ Luhansk region still under Ukrainian government control.

Most of Bakhmut’s population has already fled, and more are leaving every day. Evacuation minibuses run mainly by volunteers shuttle back and forth, sometimes even during bombardments, to get people out.

“Now it’s a question of saving the children,” said Olga Hordiyenko, 51, as she stood in a playground on Tuesday near her apartment building. “The Russians are shelling us, so there’s this burning issue to get the children out of here.”

Ignoring the repeated background sounds of shelling, her three grandchildren, girls ages 7, 9 and 11, focused on learning dance moves from a video on their mother’s mobile phone.

Hordiyenko and her daughter Anna Dyachenko, 28, wanted to leave on Tuesday but there was no room on the bus for them, they said. Instead, they would be leaving on Wednesday, heading to western Ukraine initially and then abroad to relatives.

“People say it’s time to go, and we’re happy to leave,” Dyachenko said. But they still fear they will have nothing to come home to once the war is over.

“Here we have our apartment, our house,” she said. “Everything will be smashed and destroyed.”

With a pre-war population of around 85,000, there are now around 30,000 people left, Bakhmut City Council Secretary Ganna Petrieynko-Poluhina said. While authorities are encouraging more people to leave, some are hesitant, she said.

“Life is the most important thing for a person. But people are tied to their homes, to what they remember,” Petrieynko-Poluhina said. “Every day we see that shelling happens more often, and people leave. We would like that more people leave.”

The shelling has increased in recent days, and it’s becoming harder to get humanitarian aid into the town, she said. As if to prove her point, the thudding of artillery reverberated, and the city council staff headed toward the bomb shelter.

Strikes in Bakhmut have hit everything from apartment blocks to dormitories, houses and even schools.

“It was a usual school, children studied, then there was a bomb,” said local resident Olena Kryvobok as she walked around a playing field and children’s playground just outside what was left of the school. Students’ notebooks lie tattered in the grass, a child’s drawing still pinned to the wall of what used to be a classroom.

“I don’t even know what to say, because I have so much indignation, so many emotions,” Kryvobok said, adding that it was pure luck that there had been no children in the playing field when the bomb struck.

“In one moment, everything crashed,” she said. “I don’t know, it is horror.”

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Bear cub rescued after getting head stuck in plastic jug

HARWINTON, Conn. (AP) — Wildlife biologists in Connecticut had to rescue a bear cub that got its head stuck in a plastic container, state wildlife officials said. The misadventure happened June 23 when a mother bear with three cubs knocked over a garbage can in the town of Harwinton in Litchfield County, and one of […]
10 hours ago
A passenger jet streaks toward a landing at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va, Thursday even...
Associated Press

Pre-pandemic sized crowds descend on US airports for holiday

The July Fourth holiday weekend is off to a booming start with airport crowds crushing the numbers seen in 2019, before the pandemic. Travelers seemed to be experiencing fewer delays and canceled flights early Friday than they did earlier this week. The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.4 million travelers at airport checkpoints on […]
10 hours ago
A passenger jet streaks toward a landing at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va, Thursday even...
Associated Press

Pre-pandemic sized crowds descend on US airports for holiday

The July Fourth holiday weekend is off to a booming start with airport crowds crushing the numbers seen in 2019, before the pandemic. Travelers seemed to be experiencing fewer delays and canceled flights early Friday than they did earlier this week. The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.4 million travelers at airport checkpoints on […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

Essence Festival allowing negative COVID tests for admission

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In a major reversal of policy, the 2022 Essence Festival of Culture said Friday that it will allow attendees to show a negative COVID test result for admission to its ticketed concerts in the Superdome and other events. Previously, Essence had said proof of a COVID vaccination was mandatory for admission. […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

New York legislative text detailing new gun rules released

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York lawmakers are reviewing a bill released Friday to remove a barrier to getting a concealed carry handgun permit in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling, while also placing new restrictions on who can get a permit and limiting where people can carry firearms. Gov. Kathy Hochul released the […]
10 hours ago
FILE - This Feb. 19, 2021, photo provided by Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows death row inm...
Associated Press

Execution dates scheduled for 6 Oklahoma death row inmates

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday set execution dates for six death row inmates, just hours before an attorney for one planned to ask for a rehearing in his case. Execution dates for James Coddington, Richard Glossip, Benjamin Cole, Richard Fairchild, John Hanson and Scott Eizember were scheduled, starting […]
10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Saving the children: War closes in on eastern Ukrainian town